Government has clarified to chiefs in the northern region that the recently passed Land Bill will not strip them of their powers over land and that customary land owners would not be forced to register land.
Minister of Lands and Urban Development Atupele Muluzi said Tuesday in Mzuzu during the meeting with the chiefs that instead the new law is shifting powers from the central government to them.
“Previously, all land was vested in the President through the minister responsible for lands. It was the minister responsible that gave a go-ahead to the chiefs to administer land,” Muluzi said.
He added that in most cases there was no consultation with the local people before administering the land to developers.
“This time around we are giving this authority to the Traditional Authorities themselves saying, ‘we are giving you the power but you need to exercise that power responsibly by involving communities,’” the Minister told journalists after the meeting.
The new land bill provides for a Lands Committee at Group Village Head (GVH) level to be responsible for land administration.
“After consultation amongst themselves at GVH level, they [committee] will then submit a request to the TA who may grant or refuse it,” Muluzi said.
However, he said, the bill requires the chiefs to exercise the power given to them “with decentralization, with the governance arrangements that we already have in the country [such as] VDCs and ADCs [Village Development Committees and Area Development Committees].”
“We are saying they should be using the same format where there is fairness, transparency and accountability,” said Muluzi who was accompanied by Minister of Information, Communication Technology and Civic Education Patricia Kaliati and other senior official from his ministry.
The Minister of Lands further clarified that the new law does not make registration of customary land compulsory and that those who wish to register their land will do it for free.
“It will be discretional to the individuals who want to register and it will be up to the Traditional Authority to say yes or to say no,” Muluzi said.
He said the registration is there for protection of the land to ensure that, unlike in the past, customary land owners or communities should not lose their land to developers without their consent.
“We are saying those that people can have the opportunity to request to their TA to have their land registered in their names so that they are afforded protection and ownership of land within the community.
“Initial registration is free. But once in future the owner wants to transact on that land, whether they want to lease it out… get a mortgage or a loan, there will be some fees which will apply for any transaction that takes place on any land,” the minister said.
Speaking at the close of the meeting, Inkosi ya Makosi Mbelwa V said, among other issues, that when they heard about fees they were worried that some people would lose their land if they fail to pay the fees for some period.
He also said the chiefs hope that there will be no political interference in the administration of land.
“We hope that the structures will be followed; for instance, that the overseer of the land is the traditional leader at the local level. We hope that the bill will change people’s lives for the better and not for the worst,” Mbelwa said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :